You might be familiar with Drunk History, the web series turned Comedy Central show that reenacts the ramblings of inebriated hipsters trying to recount events like the Watergate scandal or the Burr-Hamilton duel. Well, apparently, a growing number of theater troupes have decided that the best way to stage Shakespeare in this age of social media and shortening attention spans is to get everyone involved drunk. The audience and the actors. One such group is called, aptly, Drunk Shakespeare, which describes itself as “a company of professional drinkers with a serious Shakespeare problem.” Each audience member is given a shot of whiskey at the beginning of each performance. The actors reportedly drink much more and actually have to get breathalyzed before the show. You wouldn’t want Henry V to pass out before the Battle of Agincourt, would you? The Wall Street Journal did a short video piece about the group. You can watch it above.
Another group, the New York Shakespeare Exchange, dispenses with the stage altogether. Instead, they host a regular pub crawl/ theatrical performance called ShakesBEER. In one of the many drinking establishments in New York, actors in contemporary dress do scenes from Hamlet and Othello amid patrons clutching pints of lager. You can watch some of their shows above.
Another example is The Inis Nua Company, which took the basic idea of Drunk History and swapped out the history with Romeo and Juliet. Check out below. Or, maybe if you’re across the pond, you will want to check out Sh*t- Faced Shakespeare at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It features “An entirely serious Shakespeare play… with an entirely shit-faced actor.”
But the real question is where will all this crazed mixing of high culture and mind altering substances end? Will someone do Inebriated Ibsen? Stoned Chekhov? Moliere on Molly? Tripping balls Beckett? It’s a slippery slope.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily. The Veeptopus store is here.